By Indiana Nash
NISKAYUNA- Sometimes art pushes the artist and other times, the artist pushes the art.
At least that’s what Lori Lupe Pelish, a Niskayuna artist, has found out in the past year or so.
“It’s always pushing me around, but sometimes I push back,” Pelish said.
She’s been an artist since her playground days, growing up in Niskayuna.
But being a full-time artist brings with it a slew of challenges not commonly found on the playgrounds of childhood.
The stress of making a career out of her creations and ensuring that it was worth doing are worries that came in waves throughout her earlier years of working.
But as she began to gain recognition, through a myriad of juried shows (the Mohawk Hudson Regional, at the National Quilt Museum, and Visions Museum in San Diego).
Pelish was formally trained at the Southhampton College, which opened her artistic perspective up to an entirely new host of skills and ideas.
Shortly after she graduated, she married her husband David and they moved to Niskayuna where they started a family in a house that her father had built.
The itch to create and to build runs deep in her family and it didn’t skip Pelish.
It was this desire to work with her hands that led her to what she is perhaps most known for: fiber art.
“Someone said the word “quilt” to me and I was instantly fascinated,” Pelish said.
In 1990, she headed to the craft store and began experimenting with fabrics.
“I had no idea how to sew before that. But I was fascinated in what you could do with fabric,” Pelish said.
After taking a few sewing lessons, she was hooked and began to make wall hangings.
“It was kinda good because there’s a lot of rules, especially in quilting . . . I didn’t know any of those rules and I just did whatever worked to get my imagery out,” Pelish said.
Luckily, it made her pieces stand out from the rest of the fiber art industry.
She began entering into various juried shows across the country and gained traction because the focus and the emotion that her work expresses.
Often, her work would stem from global tragedies and social injustices.
“Not only was I moved, by making it, because I really wanted to get my message across, but I moved a lot of people too. . . There’s nothing like it as an artist,” Pelish said.
Most of her figurative pieces feature expressive people with hints of the events or news going on in the background.
One piece, titled “Bad News,” features a mother, father and child with anger and fear lining their faces. In the background, there are vignettes and postcards of the Twin Towers coming down and or wars around the world.
While she was exhibiting the piece in San Diego, a Japanese-American man approached her to thank her for the piece. He had been put in one of the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II and told her that the piece expressed exactly what he and his family had been feeling at the time.
While she gained much acclaim in the fiber art world- exhibiting in shows across the country upwards of 20 times a year- something changed in 2015.
Something she’s only now coming to terms with.
While showing some of her wall hangings at an art and craft show, a surreal sense of detachment sank into Pelish.
“ . . . even though I was winning the awards and people would come to my booth and never leave and loved the work, . . . I came to a point where I just wanted to do something else,” Pelish said.
When she got home from the show, she dug out her oil paints and tried to settle into a new medium.
But it wasn’t as easy as she’d anticipated.
“I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to paint. I thought I knew what I wanted when I started,” Pelish said.
It wasn’t until a few months ago that she found “it.”
“I like the idea of this symbiotic relationship existing in nature” Pelish said.
Using oil paint to layer and sometimes marker, she’s been exploring an abstract style.
Although her inspiration and style has changed since her work with fiber art, she still wants to communicate emotion and her world views through her artwork.
In the coming months, she and her husband David will be hitting the road for art shows in Florida.
This time, they’ll be showing together.
David has been a full-time painter for many years, but it wasn’t until 2016 that he began to paint on a canvas.
“I’ll be showing in Under the Oaks in Vero Beach and he’ll be in another juried show,” Pelish said.
While David painted for businesses and families, Pelish raised their children (Rainer and Landen). Now the two are coming together in their painting careers.
“I’ve been so lucky. My husband had supported me. I could create, I raised a family. I made a body of work that is really beautiful that people really responded to and that I made a footprint with,” Pelish said.